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where we were before

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Emma is crouched down, putting all her weight on the tips of her toes, eyes scanning the shelf of books. She had decided to go to the library a few weeks ago, since she’d read most of her own books in her spare time, but she hadn’t managed to make it here until today.


She’s about to pull a book off the shelf when she hears a soft voice from behind her. “Hey.”


Emma spins around.


The speaker is a small-statured girl about Emma’s age, with her hair plaited down her back in a thick braid and dark, sharp eyes, a worn shawl draped over her shoulders. Emma stares for a moment, certain she's seen the girl before somewhere. Then she blinks, and the feeling is gone.


She raises an eyebrow. “Do I know you?”


The girl looks almost surprised at the sound of Emma’s voice, as if it’s snapped her out of some sort of trance. She shakes her head. “Sorry, I… thought I recognized you. Guess not.”


Emma squints. “Do you live nearby? Maybe you’ve seen me around.”


“I’m just passing through,” she admits. “Is it… nice, living here?” Emma hears a touch of longing in her voice.


She shrugs. “Nice enough.”


A boy strolls over, hands stuck in his pockets. He’s wearing blue jeans and a hoodie with the logo of some horror comic book series on it, one that she thinks she might’ve seen in a bookstore before somewhere.


Emma feels the vaguest sense of recognition at the sight of him, like he’s an old friend who she hasn’t seen in years, but she isn’t sure why; she doesn’t remember ever knowing anyone who looked like him, all pale blue eyes and mussed curly brown hair.


He taps the girl lightly on the shoulder, and she flinches, startled by his touch. “I’m heading out, unless you want to stay here.” He glances at Emma, and for a moment the big-sister voice in her head whispers go on, talk to him. She doesn’t.


“Oh,” the girl says. She hesitates for a moment. “Alright. Uh, see you, I guess.” she says back to Emma.


“Yeah,” she says, an odd sense of finality settling into her bones as the girl turns to leave. “See you.”